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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019              

Today’s Scripture Reading | Matthew 28:1–10

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (NRSV)

“Do not be afraid.” There are those words again! We typically think of them occurring in the beginning of Jesus’ story, when the angel approaches Mary in Luke and Joseph in Matthew. In both instances, the angel tries to calm each down as he lets them know what is about to happen in their now-growing family.

We also hear these “Be not afraid” words in the choruses of the angels’ song to the shepherds in the fields as the angels proclaim the good news of Jesus’ birth—good news told first to those usually left out and left behind. But have you ever noticed them here—in the story of Easter, the story of the resurrection?

“Do not be afraid,” the angel tells the women when they arrive at the tomb. “Do not be afraid,” says Jesus when he suddenly meets them where they are and brings them greetings. Do not be afraid. Given the fact that those words frame this entire Gospel narrative, they must tell us something of God, don’t you think?

They must tell us something of the way God wants us to understand the heart of the Holy One. They must tell us something of the way God wants us to understand our lives here in our world. They must tell us something of the way God feels about us, those whom God has created.

Do not be afraid. In a world that traffics in fear and mistrust, God’s constant refrain of “Do not be afraid” is challenging. And yet, what if we really lived it and embodied it every single day of our lives? Wouldn’t that feel like Easter here and now?

Living God, help me to live out of courage. Help me to live out of trust that you are the only one who has the last word on my life, on the life of this world. Give to me the “Be not afraid” boldness to be fully your Easter disciple. Amen.

Written by Shannon J. Kershner, Pastor

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